ACP: a pipeline to nowhere

May 2020 will mark six years since more than 200 Nelson County landowners received the first letters from the Southern Reliability Project, since renamed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

When the project was formally announced in September 2014, former Gov. McAuliffe called it “desperately needed” to make Virginia a major manufacturing hub. He further claimed that construction would create 8,800 new jobs for the Commonwealth. It is now known that these jobs by in large, will not go to Virginians. His claims about growth in the chemical industry announced to be in service by 2020 have now passed and clearly constructed somewhere other than Virginia. If a major chemical manufacturer has ever come forward to court the commonwealth and ask for the natural gas that Dominion’s ACP could offer, it has been kept a secret from the press. The ACP gas contracted for to date remains committed to by Duke and Dominion subsidiaries. Currently, the ACP awaits a late spring ruling from the US Supreme Court regarding the Appalachian Trail crossing at Wintergreen. If the ACP prevails and the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the company will still need to reclaim seven other key permits.

During this six-year period, natural gas prices have plummeted, and a glut remains. More than 200 oil and gas companies have filed for bankruptcy involving $127 billion in debt since 2015. Chesapeake Energy, the grandfather of natural gas fracking, is currently trading at 22 cents per share. And, West Virginia natural gas drillers are selling off leases or filing for bankruptcy at an alarming rate.

Pipeline construction nationwide is being put on hold or canceled. Just last week, Kinder Morgan announced that the proposed Permian Pass Pipeline is on hold due to lack of a single contract. In late February, the Constitution Pipeline, slated to carry natural gas from Pennsylvania to New England, was scuttled, with Williams Company stating that it no longer justified investment. Duke Energy was one of Constitution’s partners. And, in a rare move, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission declined to reconsider the proposed 229-mile Pacific Connector Pipeline which would have carried gas to the waning proposed Jordan Cove Export Terminal in Oregon.

If industry giants like Kinder Morgan and Williams are making adjustments, and West Virginia’s drilling rig counts are continuing to drop (down 31 percent from last year) where the ACP originates, why is Dominion continuing to fight to save this pipeline?



Amazing theatrical production

I was fortunate to catch a matinee of “Beauty and the Beast,” performed by the Nelson High School Drama Department, the other weekend.

It was wonderful; the students were by turns funny and dramatic, sang beautifully, and just brought out the best in one another. The costumes (people dressed as candles, napkins, clocks, wardrobes, wolves ...) were impressive. Scene changes were quick and fun to watch. The crowd scenes were a delight, as were the singing and acting of the main characters.

Kudos to Mrs. Driver and her students.

The last play I saw was on Broadway. This one was equally excellent.



Caboose restoration thanks

I would like to say a heartfelt “Thank you” to the many businesses, organizations, county officials and individuals that assisted with money, material at reduced prices, help with fundraisers, equipment at reduced rates and just general sweat labor. The restoration of the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway caboose couldn’t have happened without you.

Big thanks to Steve Martin and his late wife, Popie, for their vision of bringing the caboose home and the Board of Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail for assisting with this.

To the retired persons who donated time, labor and equipment for the move from Rapidan. Especially Sammie and Jerry Mays of K.E. Mays Excavating for reduced rates for equipment and men and cutting, sawing and delivering pine lumber.

To the carpenters who worked at reduced rates or no charge in rebuilding. To the Nelson County Board of Supervisors, Amherst County Recreation Department, Massies Mill Ruritans (especially David Hight) and the many people that donated large and small funds. Every dollar helped.

To Glen Lathrop for the use of the copyright of his father’s book, “Sentimental Journey.” And to the local artist for lettering and art work to raise money. To the gentleman who donated lamps for lights inside and at the doors. And to the publisher TSC Company for the cut rate price on printing. Also Gerald Wizon for layout computed assistance and moral support.

And last but not least for David, Tom and John coming every Saturday and donating their labor. And to Alan Shotwell of Rapidan for many favors when we were working at Rapidan.

Again, I say, “Thank you, everyone — without your help it would have not been completed.



Viral politics

As I said last week, the job of the federal government in the coronavirus outbreak is not to BS the populace (Trump’s specialty) but provide the resources needed by the health officials across the country.

This seems beyond the present administration’s ability. The U.S. response to the epidemic last week revolved around Donald Trump’s political aspirations, not science. Most of the time he’s his own worst enemy, and his news conference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was no exception. That organization was crippled part of the week as their comments had to pass a political reviewer.

Are you reminded of the old Soviet system yet?

China, on the other hand, has released the results of the first age versus virus fatality rate study on almost 45,000 virus patients. The results aren’t good for folks in my demographic. The fatality rate for everyone infected under the age of 50 was less than 1 percent but that increased to 1.3 percent for those 50-59, 3.6 percent for those 60-69, 8 percent for those 70-79, and 14.8 percent for those over 80. The implications here are simple. If you’re older don’t travel at present. Take that cruise a couple of years from now. Stay home and do your best to avoid the virus with sensible and frequent hand sanitation. If you already have respiratory problems, be doubly cautious.

Looking to the bright side (pun intended) of the coronavirus, the air over China has become noticeably cleaner, and I would suspect that this is becoming a global phenomenon as unnecessary travel and consumptive manufacturing is curtailed. There are NASA satellite photos on the internet showing a marked reduction in atmospheric nitrogen oxide levels over China. I think we’ll probably also see the amount of fossilized carbon being dumped into the atmosphere sharply reduced as air travel is now seeing its greatest slump since 9/11. The fear of this virus may be able to accomplish what our supposedly conscious minds have not, getting humans to stop destroying their planet with their whims.

Another bit of wonderful news in this vein is last week’s passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act by the state’s General Assembly. The new law mandates most of the state’s coal-fired power plants be closed by 2030 and all fossil-fueled power plants closed by 2045. Virginia will become a leader in the march to a 21st century energy economy. And another reason for Dominion’s construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is gone. Is there now any reason for this fossil fuel boondoggle? No.

On another subject, it seemed to me too big a coincidence that two of the moderate candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination would both quit their campaigns and endorse a leadership favorite on the evening before Super Tuesday. This sure appears to be another example of Democratic Party shenanigans to deny the nomination to Bernie Sanders. Were former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar decoys all along? The Democratic reluctance to support Bernie may not be a fear that he’d lose to Trump but instead the fear that he’d win and really drain what has become Trump’s swamp. Both political parties have been wallowing comfortably for decades in the lucrative swamp that stretches from Wall Street to D.C. And both parties really fear a disrupter. Does the Democratic leadership actually prefer a swamp creature like Trump? We can do better but we’ll have to change some things. Now we just need to stay home and not spread the virus.



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